Sexual violence

27Jul10

Safety advice given to festival-goers often covers the basics. Don’t leave valuables in your tent, don’t let fires get out of control, don’t leave camping gas cans somewhere they might explode. Since the despicable attacks at this month’s Latitude festival, standard safety advice will seemingly also extend to, if you are a female, be afraid of enjoying yourself, moving independently or wearing clothes that reflect the gorgeous weather we were able to enjoy.

In Scotland to music festivals can be the stalking grounds of rapists, as this year’s T in the Park reminded. Read the rest of this article, entitled Rape: treat the cause, not the symptom,here. An obvious part of what can be done, even if it is only a small beginnings, is providing education on sexual violence and not allowing it to lurk just below the radar of conversation in polite society. There is something deeply wrong in our attitudes about women and about sexual violence, and when I say our I mean (in differing ways) both men and women.

While prostitution is not the same thing as rape I would suggest that it can be regarded as a violence on all those women who are forced or coerced into it. While having a drink with friends, and I forget how the topic arose, I put forward that prostitution is often an utter violence. I was quite shocked (probably a man’s naive perspective) that my friends didn’t agree. They didn’t just not agree but they argued against the point. If anything, they said, its a violence done to the man because he’s just lonely and pathetic. Fair enough, but the man was lonely and pathetic before he paid for sex anyway. Incidentally, what is it about us men that the thing between a woman’s legs holds such “power” over us, or more truthfully why are we so obsessed by that one facet of a woman and why are some of us persuaded to take it by force? Men are absurd creatures and no amount of cod-Darwinian “men are made to fuck” argument can wriggle out of the utter inhumanity of sexual violence. (At the same time, I’m not suggesting only women are victims of such violence, or that only men are perpetrators of it).

The above article goes on to state that

A woman’s body is not a security risk. A woman’s body is not an unsecured fire, a wallet peeking out of a back pocket. A woman who wants to go to the toilet unaccompanied is not an invitation to a violent criminal, and the longer it is treated as such the more regularly attacks like this will be blamed on the victim.

I think this framing of the question of security is spot-on. It serves to highlight the fact that society is still very much caught on the twin poles of misogyny and paternalism and that women continue to be viewed in terms of objects of possession; after all, what does one secure?

It also speaks of the way that the security type of advice works much like any other form of social control, except this time targeted at a group because of their biology, that the flow of the female body through space has to be tightly monitored, checked, controlled, have its zones of acceptability and prohibition. How does such an attitude differ from that of Islamic fundamentalists who force women into hijabs? The practice and underlying logic remain the same, in the latter case it is the tacit agreement between rapist and paternal guardian that there is something about the woman that disturbs the male ego so much that violence is inevitable.

This is particularly insidiously expressed in ‘ironic’ tones on the internet with the meme that has a picture of an attractive female with the caption “Asking for it”. It is not the individual woman, when seen from the perspective of a misogynistic big Other, but Woman herself who is “asking for it”.

Of course, its an attitude that permeates everywhere and I’d be a liar if I said I’d never indulged in it (I can’t say that I have never watched pornography).  Its a disposition that even women can fall prey to…who hasn’t seen or heard of women saying “what did she expect would happen?” and such like. I don’t know what the answer is but structural analysis and education seem like good starts and on the level of the individual, especially for men, there can only ever be the constant struggle not to lapse into doing harm to women. Of course, any moral person should always be aspiring not to do harm to anyone but when it comes to misogyny there seem to be a plethora of ready-made get-outs and such invisibility. Does the man watching a porn film ever stop to contemplate how that woman arrived at that point or why she continues to do what he is enjoying?


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6 Responses to “Sexual violence”

  1. last point…does this mean you are starting to see where i was coming from after all those arguments?…

    • 2 dronemodule

      I don’t think I never did…it was more denial…”but I CAN’T be like those men” …

      • mmmm bit too simplisitc memory you have there, but yeh fine whatever

      • 4 dronemodule

        I know we argued and disagreed. I just mean that I was unable to accept what I already knew cos it would mean facing up to the violence I was part of and changing it.

  2. ps. im glad you wrote about this, thanks

    • 6 dronemodule

      Hey, all utopianism aside…the least I can do (beyond my own comportment) is write.


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